The Wolverine

December 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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60 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2020   COMMITMENT PROFILE R ivals100 Jacksonville (Fla.) San- dalwood linebacker Branden Jen- nings may be the biggest surprise in Michigan's 2021 recruiting class. After all, Jennings was previously committed to Florida State and was expected to stick with the Seminoles. His dad, Bradley, won a national title at FSU, and Jennings was excited to follow in his father's footsteps. However, Jennings backed out of his verbal pledge due to FSU's rocky start with a new coaching staff. Miami be- came the presumed favorite. Another option closer to home, Miami would have also given him a chance to play with his older brother Bradley Jr. Instead, Jennings rocked the re- cruiting world and gave Michigan a verbal commitment Oct. 16. "Michigan was one of the first schools to recruit Branden, and I know he loved the visit when he went there early [last season] for the Army game," Sandalwood head coach Adam Geis said. "He went at a great time, and he loved the weather, he loved the envi- ronment and he really loved the school. I think it is a great place for him. "Michigan did a great job recruit- ing him, he likes the school and Bran- den will make an early impact up there in that defense." Jennings committed to Michigan over offers from Clemson, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, South Carolina, Texas and a slew of other major programs. The Wolverines recruited Jennings to play the Will linebacker spot and is arguably an upgrade over three-star Dedham (Mass.) Noble & Greenough prospect Casey Phinney, who flipped his commitment from Michigan to Bos- ton College earlier this cycle. However, Geis believes Jennings could play anywhere in Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown's attacking scheme. "He's always wanted to play in a true 3-4 defense, and with his ability, Branden can play all four linebacker positions in the Michigan defense," Geis said. "He has great size, is ath- letic and is vicious on the field. He will take aggression and toughness to Michigan immediately, and I think he will play very well in that defense. "Branden breaks helmets. He plays so violent. He's just different. He plays like [Hall of Famer] Dick But- kus played back in the 1960s." Geis reiterated that he believes Jen- nings could make an impact as a true freshman. "Branden is a day one guy," Geis said. "He's the most serious guy I've ever coached. He is so physical. "We prepare our guys to play col- lege football, and Branden stays fo- cused, he has been through it all, and he is a player that will game ready right away." Jennings notched a whopping 145 tackles as a junior last season. He also recorded eight sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Over the last two years, Jennings has logged 281 tackles and been a back-to-back All- First Coast first-team selection. At 6-3, 225 pounds, Jennings is ranked as the No. 4 inside linebacker and No. 52 overall prospect in the country by — EJ Holland Jennings is ranked as the No. 4 inside linebacker and No. 52 overall prospect in the country by PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM Hard-Hitting Linebacker Branden Jennings Pledges To U-M FILM EVALUATION Strengths: The first thing that pops out about Branden Jennings is his physi- cality. He lives for contact at the linebacker spot and is a fierce downhill striker. An extremely hard hitter, Jennings plays with a violent attitude and absolutely crushes opposing ball carriers on film. He has a thick build that will allow him to excel as an inside linebacker, but he also has the length and athleticism to play multiple linebacker spots at the next level. Jennings also bends well for his size and has good flexibility. He is an old-school, run-stopping linebacker with a modern twist. Weaknesses: Jennings moves well for his size and can cover in space, but it's not his strong suit. He should be fine covering tight ends, but he may have is- sues with speedier running backs and slot receivers. While Jennings is athletic and can fill gaps in a hurry, he's not overly fast. He can look a little on the slower side when going sideline to sideline, and will need to maintain the athleticism he does have while adding weight to an impressive frame. Michigan Player Comparison: Jennings could have a Cameron McGrone-type impact at Michigan. Like Jennings, McGrone was a highly touted recruit that loved to get physical and had athleticism to boot. Despite being just a redshirt sophomore, McGrone has been a force as an inside linebacker and is explosively physical, though he has been up and down in coverage at times. Jennings has a very similar skill set and should be a multi-year starter in Ann Arbor. — EJ Holland

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